When I go to the range, I set aside my carry magazine loaded with Federal Ammunition 9mm HST Hollow Point self-defense ammo and shoot the magazines that I’ve loaded with American Eagle 9mm FMJ rounds. Then, at the end of my range time I dutifully load the “carry” magazine back in my trusty Sig P320 and off I go.
The problem with rechambering
I am unintentionally impacting my safety with this practice. In some cases, your carry magazine could be years old without the ammo ever having been used, and, get this, with the same exact round getting chambered every time.
“It’s common knowledge within the firearms canon that chambering and re-chambering a cartridge can potentially lead to either the bullet seating further into the case, or even light primer strikes (AR15s). Maybe not on the second time, or the third, or the fourth, but it can eventually lead to a failure to fire, or even a catastrophic malfunction.”
I get it. self-defense rounds are expensive, often almost 2x what the same caliber and grain of full metal jacket (FMJ) or ball rounds cost.
So I called Federal Ammunition to see what they had to say.
Federal confirmed that what can happen over time with chambering and rechambering the same round is “bullet setback” where the crimp that holds the bullet in the casing can break. It’s a problem they said happens often with law enforcement but that they are now seeing with concealed carry as well.
So what should you do?
Federal recommends that every time you unchamber your round from your carry gun, that you first inspect the round. If it looks fine (you don’t see “bullet setback”) then unload the magazine, and load the round you’ve just unchambered to the bottom of the magazine.
This ensures for at least a few cycles (depending on how many rounds your magazine holds) you will be chambering a fresh round.
Federal also recommends that you completely change out the ammo in your magazine every 6 months to a year, even if you don’t see bullet setback. Just use it for practice and reload with fresh ammo.
I’ve adopted a new practice where at least once a month at the range I shoot my carry magazine loaded with HST. For me it’s good just for practice, and then I’m sure my ammo is fresh.
One of the more challenging things about learning to shoot for me was learning to shoot with both eyes open. This is a skill that you can learn, and one that is important if you carry a firearm for self-protection. Just like training to shoot one handed, learning to shoot with both eyes open will serve you well in the event you ever need to use your firearm while under duress.
Learning to shoot with both eyes open takes some time, patience and practice. Here is the approach I used:
Bring your attention to an object 15-20 feet away from you – your “target” or sight picture.
Hold a pen or pencil out at arms length, then focus on the tip. This is the “stand in” for your front sight.
Start first by focusing on the pen tip with one eye, then the other – notice how your sight picture changes based on your dominant or non-dominant eye.
Now open both eyes, still focusing on that pen tip. Note your sight picture.
Rinse and repeat.
You’ll find that after some time, you’re able to quickly acquire the sight picture. Every time you go to the range, take your time and practice shooting with both eyes open. You may need to first focus with one eye, then open both eyes, focus and take the shot. In my experience, my accuracy improved greatly with my “both eyes open” shots than my one-eye open shots, and I found that the more I shot with both eyes open the easier it became.
If you are training primarily for self-defense, learning to shoot with both eyes open is just one more skill you should learn. Do you shoot with both eyes open? Why or why not? Let’s discuss in the comments below.
This is a constant challenge for me as I’m not hardwired to think this way but I’ve realized, especially as I’ve been carrying a handgun, t
hat I need to improve my situational awareness.
Here are 3 tips to improve situational awareness that I’m starting to incorporate in my daily life.
Head Up. This is probably the most important tool in the situational awareness arsenal. Keep your head up. That means not walking and texting or looking at my phone, or fiddling in my purse. It means head up and looking at what’s around me. Not only is this key in improving situational awareness, but it also makes me look like a less tempting target, because my shoulders are back and I exude more confidence.
Note people and exits. When you enter a building or a room, such as a shop or a restaurant, note immediately the location of key people (cashier, manager, patrons, etc) and exits. If there were an emergency you’d want to know how to get out quickly.
Use all your senses. This isn’t just about visual awareness, your hearing is just as important. I’m always surprised when I see women jogging alone with their earbuds in. You will never hear someone approaching you from behind, or a car approaching the intersection. My family and I were in a shopping mall recently when an angry protest broke out on the second floor. We only realized it because we heard the chants and shouting. Rather than walk toward the sound as many others did we promptly headed toward the closest exit and to our car.
Perhaps the most important tip is to practice. Every day. I have to remind myself when in “transition” times such as walking from my office to the car, or leaving the house, to keep my head up and observe my environment. I would love to know your tips for improving situational awareness too – please comment below.
If there’s one topic that can cause a lot of heat in shooting circles, it’s whether or not you choose to carry with a round in the chamber.
When you research this topic or bring it up, particularly around experienced shooters, you’ll find a lot of strong opinions like, “only an idiot would carry without a round in the chamber,” or my all-time-favorite, “you might as well carry a brick for as much good as an unloaded gun will do you.”
And these experienced shooters have these strong opinions because there is ample evidence, and many examples, where not having a round in the chamber has cost a good person their life.
That being said, the decision to carry with a round in the chamber, or not, is a personal choice once you understand all the facts and have good information.
So let’s look at the reasons why you would want to consider carrying a round in the chamber, and some tips and techniques to help combat the fears and concerns that may prevent you from doing so.
Why carry a round in the chamber?
The 21-foot rule says that it takes the average adult 1.5-2 seconds to close a 21-foot gap between them and another person.
Stop right now and set a stopwatch to 2 seconds. Unload your carry firearm, and then reholster. Start the timer and see how long it takes you to unholster your firearm, rack the slide, and aim. For the majority of people, their potential attacker would be on them well before they ever got to the “aim” part.
In addition, there are often extenuating circumstances that make it difficult if not impossible to rack a slide while under attack, or where having to rack the slide under stress causes a misfire, as is well documented in this 4-minute (and don’t worry, it’s not judgmental) video by Active Self Protection titled “This is Why You Carry a Round in the Chamber.”
Even knowing all that, carrying with a round in the chamber can be an especially difficult fear for new shooters and those new to concealed carry to overcome.
Addressing the fears of carrying with a round in the chamber
I get it, I really do. It took me a LONG time carrying, and training with, my firearm before I gained the confidence to carry with a round in the chamber. And if I’m honest with you (and I am always honest with you), there are some times when, because of available holster options or other circumstances, I still make the conscious choice to carry without a round in the chamber.
I understand the risks in doing so, but I make that choice in those situations to either carry without a round in the chamber or not carry my firearm at all (and I almost always choose to carry without a round rather than not have my firearm with me, but again, that’s my choice).
If you want to get to the point where you are confident enough to carry a round in the chamber, here are some practical tips and things to consider:
Always follow the 4 Rules of Firearm Safety. I know YOU know this but I’ll say it anyway. Modern, quality guns don’t go off by themselves. They fire because someone (or something) has pressed the trigger. If you always, always, always follow the 4 rules of firearm safety, especially the rule of “Finger off the trigger until you are ready to fire” you should never have a negligent discharge
Critically review your holster(s). Look at your holster choices anew with an eye toward safety, in terms of trigger coverage and material. How well is the trigger covered when the gun is holstered? How about after moving around, sitting, squatting, twisting? Is the holster made from a hard material like Kydex that is molded to your firearm? If it’s a fabric holster is it made out of a thick, sturdy material like a stiff leather or ballistic nylon? If it is made from a thinner material, like some cheaper belly bands, hip huggers and thigh holsters, BE AWARE that it is possible for the trigger to get depressed THROUGH the material. Check your holsters with your unloaded handguns in them to see if this is something that can happen. In addition, even if you have a good leather or fabric holster, they can soften and wear over time, which may make them more comfortable but also make them less safe. For a real-life example of this, see this cautionary tale about a leather holster gone very wrong here at ItsTactical.com. Regularly review your holsters, in particular fabric or leather holsters, for wear and thinning.
Practice, practice, practice, practice. This cannot be stressed enough. You need to get VERY comfortable with the operation of your firearm (whether or not it has an external safety, how to rapidly address stovepipes and other misfires, etc), and with unholstering and reholstering your firearm from all the different holsters you use. That comes from repetition and practice. The absolute best way to do this is with dry fire practice (with a completely unloaded firearm, including empty magazine) at home. I try to dry fire from the holster that I’m wearing on any particular day (I have at least 4 that I use in rotation depending on what I’m wearing) at least once every day I’m wearing it, in addition to practicing more time intensively any time I get a new holster or setup. Repetition and practice is the most effective way to gain confidence in your gun handling skills.
Carry with a round in the chamber at home first. Spending time carrying in the safe environment of your home with a round in the chamber is a good way to get comfortable and confident that nothing will happen (without your intent for it to happen) before you carry loaded in public.
At the end of the day, you need to do what you feel comfortable and confident with, when considering all the pros and cons, and all the risks and fears.
Here are a few additional resources on this topic that are informative and non-judgmental. Give it some thought, and make your decision based on what you alone are comfortable with. I’d also love to discuss it with you in the comments below.
In upcoming posts we’ll go further into the issues around mindset and situational awareness (in effect, how to “extend” that 21-foot gap) as well as different levels of firearm condition readiness and what that all means.
Recently we took my mother-in-law to our favorite indoor range for her first time shooting. She had recently completed the classroom requirement her concealed carry permit but hadn’t yet shot a gun.
Helping introduce someone to shooting is something we take very seriously, and really enjoy. At our home before we left we made sure to first discuss the 4 rules of Firearm Safety and gave her the opportunity to conduct some dry fire with the Ruger .22 pistol we were going to have her shoot first.
Once at the range we introduced her to Rick, one of the Range Safety Officers (RSOs) and he reviewed the firearm safety rules with her again and also the specific rules of the range.
It got me thinking about range etiquette, which isn’t something I had thought about much since we’re weekly visitors and take for granted what’s expected. But range etiquette is about more than just niceties, it’s about safety too, for you and for everyone else at the range.
While every range may have their own set of specific guidelines and rules, you’ll always be welcomed back if you follow these 5 basic range rules:
Strictly follow the 4 Rules of Firearm Safety. You know them, repeat after me:
Treat every gun as if it is loaded
Never point your muzzle at anything you do not want to destroy.
Know your target and what’s behind it
Finger off the trigger until you’re ready to shoot
Obey all commands of the RSO. The RSO is the ultimate authority at the range. If you hear a “Ceasefire” command then IMMEDIATELY stop shooting, place your gun down with muzzle pointed down range and step away from the firing line awaiting further instructions from the RSO. Hands off the gun! Do not touch or handle your gun during a Ceasefire, not until the RSO calls “Commence Firing” or “Range is Hot.”
One interesting note about the Ceasefire command is that the RSO is not the only person who can call it. Anyone on the range who notices something wrong or a safety issue can call Ceasefire, which then usually gets repeated by the RSO. Here’s a good article on range commands and how to behave when they’re called.
Gun always pointed down range. If you’re following the 4 Rules of Firearm Safety your gun’s muzzle
should ALWAYS be pointed down range, but it’s such an important point it bears repeating. It can be easy to get distracted, turn to look at what’s going on in the lane next to you or to talk to a friend, with your gun in your hand. Suddenly you’re muzzle is pointing where it shouldn’t be. Another common example of this is when you’re racking your slide – the guys at Ammoland call it the “Side Slide Swipe.” The natural tendency when holding the grip in your dominant hand is to turn the gun sideways in front of you to rack the slide with your non-dominant hand (see the photo, right). When you do that, however, your gun is now pointed directly at the shooters next to you. It takes a lot of practice, but remember to always turn your BODY not your GUN.
Keep your gun in a case to and from the firing line. Bring the case with the unloaded gun to the line and place it on the shooting table, don’t uncase it somewhere else and then walk it to the line. Same is true when you’re done shooting. Bring the case to the table and unload and case the gun before leaving the line, always remembering Rule 3 – Gun always pointed down range. I love these small range bag inserts that unzip all the way to also serve as a gun rug on the table.
Clean up after yourself. Police your brass in the way the range wants it taken care of, dispose of all used targets in the appropriate receptacles, put away any range property you used (stools/seats, rifle stands, etc), pick up and dispose of any garbage and make sure you’ve left your area as clean (or cleaner!) as it was when you arrived.
If you follow these 5 tips for shooting range etiquette you’ll have fun and stay safe.
*Note that some of the links in this post may generate a commission that will help support this site, although that in no way influences my opinion or review. Please see my full Disclosure Statement here.
When we first starting shooting on a regular basis, we went to a local indoor range that was quite old and out-of date. We became concerned, however, when we would find a thin black film in our noses and ears as we were leaving the range and quickly Googled that the likely culprit was lead dust.
Lead poisoning. The “hidden” risk of shooting.
We hadn’t even considered that a risk with our new hobby. And we had particular concerns because we were shooting as a family, including our then-12-year-old daughter, and children are particularly vulnerable to the dangers of lead poisoning as exposure to lead can cause serious issues with brain development.
Pregnant women are also at considerable risk with exposure to lead and so should take additional precautions when handling guns and ammunition, including having someone else load magazines, wearing a face mask at the range, wearing gloves, and ideally having someone else handle gun cleaning, while expecting.
Lead is an issue for the shooting hobby through a number of avenues – the bullets themselves (particularly evident when you’re loading your magazines before a range date and your fingers are covered in black dust), the gasses that emit from the bullet leaving the gun barrel and the fragments created as the bullet hits the backstop. That can contact you directly or end up as air particulates, particularly if you are in an older, poorly ventilated indoor range.
Testing recommended, especially for children
Shortly after we started shooting we took our daughter to her pediatrician for a blood lead test. We considered it our baseline. She had slightly elevated levels but nothing that the doctor said she would be concerned about immediately. She did recommend however that we test her every 6 months just to be sure. We also made sure that either my husband or I loaded her magazines, especially when she was shooting .22LR, which usually has an exposed lead tip.
How to protect against lead poisoning
For all of us we switched to full-metal jacket ammunition for the range, as it’s completely clad in copper or brass (no exposed lead) and is often less expensive than the hollow-point ammunition we load for self-defense. We also purchased several bottles of D-Lead soap, lead-off wipes, and anti-lead laundry detergent and instituted a strict lead protocol for any handling of guns or ammunition.
After loading magazines hands are washed with D-Lead soap and cool water, rinsed then rewashed with regular soap.
After shooting at the range hands and faces are washed in the range bathroom with D-Lead soap and cool water (our range has this in the bathroom, and we also keep a small bottle in the car just in case). If we are at an outdoor range without access to running water, we use the Lead-Off wipes we keep in the car at all times (along with our first aid kit) then make sure we wash our hands with our portable D-lead soap before eating or drinking anything at the first opportunity.
Once home we drop all our range clothes and shoes in the basement hallway, and the clothes get washed immediately (and separately) with the anti-lead laundry detergent. Showers then follow for everyone.
There’s also no eating or drinking at the range, as ingesting lead through touching food with your fingers is one of the primary ways of getting exposure. We’ve also been lucky enough to find a newer range in our area that has state-of-the-art air handling capabilities and is really cognizant of reducing lead exposure. No more black noses and ears when we’re done with a shooting session, which is a relief.
While lead exposure and lead poisoning is serious, if you’re careful and take precautions, it shouldn’t affect your shooting enjoyment.
*The products in this post are all products I purchased and use. Note that some of the links in this post may generate a commission that will help support this site, although that in no way influences my opinion or review. Please see my full Disclosure Statement here.
The primary responsibility of any gun owner is the safe handling and storage of their guns. This is especially true in situations where the gun is not in your immediate possession (on your person) and doubly especially true if you have children or others in your house who should not be allowed to access a firearm without your supervision.
Not having a gun safe was not an option for us
I know for us that when we made the decision to purchase our first handguns, the very next decision was how we were going to properly and safely store those guns when not in use to keep them out of reach from our daughter but yet also readily accessible on a daily basis.
If you are only going to own a handgun (or two) for self protection and home defense, there are plenty of small, reliable handgun safes on the market that are designed for quick access at home.
In our bedroom we have the Fort Knox Pistol Case. It’s amazingly heavy, sturdy, and I love the fact that it uses a push-button, mechanical lock. You don’t want to have a failure in accessing your handgun if you need it in the middle of the night under stress, and unlike this safe’s push button lock, digital and biometric locks can fail, batteries can die, keys can get misplaced or lost and you can’t dial a combo lock in the dark.
This case is big enough for 2 handguns and has drill holes to bolt it to the floor or drawer for extra security. And even though it’s very heavy steel, the lid has a pneumatic hinge that allows for one-handed access.
In my car I have a portable gun vault by Nanovault, that I tether to the frame of my car and tuck out of view. In my state, Wisconsin, as in most states, there are areas in which you’re not allowed to carry a firearm, such as governmental buildings, school zones and college campuses.
In addition, firearms are not allowed at my office so I need to have a safe place to store my gun when I head into work. As I’ve noted before, these small safes are inexpensive, and are a bare minimum for safe storage of and quick access to your handgun, particularly in your car. I’ve also used this small portable safe when carrying while traveling and want to be sure I will always have a secure place to store my gun if I need to.
What to consider when choosing a pistol safe
It’s important to think through not only the safety features but also how accessible you want your handgun to be as you think through your gun safe options.
If you’re not going to on-body carry at home, which many people do, you need to think through where you want to keep your handgun while not on body. You don’t want a situation where you can’t get to your gun if you need it, but you also want to be sure that it’s secure from unauthorized people such as children or guests when you’re not able to carry it.
Think through in what situations you will be using the safe and where you will be keeping it – in the bedroom at night, during the day while at work, or in the car or while traveling – to determine not only the kind of safe but what features you want – in particular the kind of lock (biometric, digital, push button, combination, key) and the size and layout (open from the top, open from the side).
Once you have your gun safe, it’s important to practice accessing it regularly. This is particularly true for a bedroom safe where you may keep a home defense handgun that you’re not carrying every day. Practice opening in the dark. Practice opening from on the bed or on the floor. Practice so it becomes second nature and you can have your gun both secure and accessible when you need it.
*The products listed here I have purchased and use. Note that some of the links in this post may generate a commission that will help support this site, although that in no way influences my opinion or review. Please see my full Disclosure Statement here.
I’d file this under the realm of the obvious, but the Atlantic recently published a story titled, “The Problem with Leaving a Gun in Your Car,” that surprisingly enough, was about the problem that guns are often stolen out of cars.
If you carry your gun, you also realize that guns are a huge target for thieves. While the Atlantic focused on the fact that the reason guns are bad is because they get stolen out of cars, I prefer to figure out how I can still carry my gun to protect myself (the whole point of having a concealed carry license) and yet still safely deal with the issue that there are “gun free zones” or other restrictions on carrying that would require me to leave my gun in my car. The solution is simple – a portable gun safe.
One of the first things I bought after I decided to carry every day is a portable gun safe. I’m not able to carry into my office, so I have a NanoVault GunVault that I use in my car. It is reasonably priced (generally less than $25-30), has a tether I can attach securely to my car (I have it hooked onto to my passenger car seat frame), uses a combination lock (faster and more secure), is roomy enough to hold my Sig P320 9mm and tucks discretely under the seat.
There are a number of other alternative small, portable safes that are reasonably priced available on Amazon.com, your local sporting good store or gun store.
The first obligation as a gun owner is ensuring the safety of your firearm. If you are going to carry your gun with you, you have to be prepared for situations where you have to leave it in a safe location on the go. It’s an inexpensive way to ensure you don’t become one of the statistics.
*The GunVault is a product I purchased and use. Note that some of the links in this post may generate a commission that will help support this site, although that in no way influences my opinion or review. Please see my full Disclosure Statement here.
There are several sets of rules regarding safe gunhandling. All the sets of rules emphasize the concerns of their originators. However, many similar things are said but stated in different ways. Which set of rules you choose to use is less important than picking a set and following it scrupulously. Firearms are instruments of ultimate […]